Article

Human Memory

Jeffrey D. Karpicke and Melissa Lehman

in Psychology

ISBN: 9780199828340
Published online April 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0107
Human Memory

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“Memory,” broadly defined, is the ability to use the past in the service of the present. Memory can manifest itself in a variety of ways. When people tie their shoelaces or ride bicycles, they rely on past experiences to execute sequences of motor behaviors that accomplish those tasks. Such skills are often considered examples of procedural memory. When people identify objects in the environment (e.g., knowing that a thing is a plant or an animal) or when they give the answer to a factual question, they draw upon stores of general knowledge about the world accumulated over time. This type of memory is often referred to as semantic memory. When people remember events, they must attempt to recollect the details of what occurred at a particular place and time. This type of memory, called episodic memory, has been the focus of a wealth of research and will receive most of the attention in this article. Cognitive psychologists have devised numerous ways to study memory. Many methods involve giving a person various materials (often lists of words in laboratory experiments) during a study episode and then assessing that person’s ability to remember the materials on a memory test. Consider the difference between episodic and semantic memory in this context. If the word “tiger” occurs on a list in a study episode, and a person in the experiment fails to remember it on a memory test, he or she did not momentarily forget that a tiger is a large cat with stripes and big teeth. Instead, the person failed to remember that “tiger” occurred in a particular place and time (on a particular list in a particular memory experiment). The study of human learning and memory is vast, and the goal of the present article is to help orient new students of memory to the lay of the land in memory research. There is a great deal of research on memory that spans a wide variety of methods and disciplines, from the study of neural mechanisms of memory in invertebrate animals to the study of collective memories for historical events passed down across generations. Complete coverage of the entire world of memory studies would be impossible in a single article. This article is focused primarily on the study of human episodic memory within the field of cognitive psychology.

Article.  7521 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Health Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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